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How To Know When Your Bad Habit Has Escalated To An Addiction

By Michael LoRe
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Carol Anderson, LMSW, ACSW on December 16, 2020
A bad habit has escalated to an addiction when it starts to negatively impact your day-to-day life, and you feel like you can't stop.

While we all have a bad habit or two, it's whether or not that habit negatively affects your relationships, work, or school that is usually the determining factor in addiction. 

"A habit becomes an addiction when you start to experience problems in your mental and/or physical health and daily functioning," Dr. Rae Mazzei, a psychologist at Evolutions Behavioral Health Services, tells WebMD Connect to Care.  

"Addictions result in brain changes that make you feel compelled to engage in maladaptive behaviors. If you feel that you cannot stop, you may have an addiction. When you have an addiction, you likely fixate on it. Your thoughts are consumed with engaging in the addictive behavior."

Warning signs

There are a number of key indicators that are tell-tale signs you or someone you know have an addiction. They include:

  • Mood swings
  • Decline in work/school performance
  • Changes in physical appearance and health
  • Disinterest in other activities
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Legal and/or financial issues
  • Relationship problems

While the physical, emotional and behavioral signs of addiction may vary based on each person, there are three C's you and people around you should be aware of when identifying potential addiction.

  • Craving and compulsive use
  • Continued use despite the consequences
  • Lack of control over frequency and amount of use

"In drug addiction, you may be able to tolerate more of a substance without a physiological effect and then go into withdrawal without it," Dr. Mazzei tells WebMD Connect to Care.

"With a bad habit, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are not likely or are less severe. People who know you may notice a change in your health, physical appearance, finances, work/school performance and relationships. An individual may be more likely to be in denial about their addiction than a bad habit."

Relating to these symptoms should tell you or your loved one that there is a problem. Addictions are serious and the sooner you or a loved one seek help, the sooner recovery can take place.

Treatment & Resources: General Information